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Golf: US Team Trails Europe in Ryder Cup - 2002-09-27

Expectations that the U.S. Ryder Cup golf team would dominate the tournament this year were shattered quickly by their European counterparts on the opening day Friday.

The Belfry course has been set up to compliment the shorter and more precise European style, frustrating many of the hard hitting Americans. But Davis Love says the course setup really does not matter. "It is match play," he said. "If they said they had decided to play across the street at a public course that does not have any rough or no sand traps. It would still be whoever makes the most putts.

Europe lost the 1999 Ryder Cup in a heartbreaking comeback by the United States. The vocal fans near Boston and the wild celebration by the U.S. players were dimly viewed in Europe. But three years later, and after a one-year delay because of the terrorist attacks against the United States, U.S. player Paul Azinger says the atmosphere at the Belfry has been refreshing. "I thought this was very cordial, extremely patriotic, not one unpleasant comment," said Paul Azinger.

Azinger says the attitude between the teams has also evolved. "Now is a different era for the Ryder Cup," he said. "There was a lot of animosity that had been stirred up, I think beginning about 1987. We did not really know the European players. They obviously were a little better than us and did not mind reminding us that they were a little better, that is the way we felt. With the World Tour kind of the way it is, we see each other quite a bit more often. And there is really no need for all that. Certainly the times I think would never dictate that we would be treating each other any other than as a gentleman."

The Europeans won four matches Friday, while the United States managed to get three. Both teams claimed half a point from the final match of the day which finished in a tie. The Ryder Cup continues through Sunday.